Friday, February 6, 2009

Lost in Translation

Today was my last course for this level of German and it was brutal! The grammar was insane (as were a couple classmates), but we survived and most of the group is continuing on, which is quite nice. We also were able to celebrate today with a small party with traditional dishes.

Here are a few things that I keep thinking back to over the last month...

  • In class, we were discussing weather for a good half an hour when Ugur (who resembles a Turkish Ashton Kutcher) was asked if they also had Earthquakes (Erdbeben) in his homeland of Turkey. He looked puzzled for a moment or two and then said 'Erbeeren (strawberries)?' We all got a good laugh out of that. He often provides comic relief, even if it's not usually intentional. He's also very philosophical and was wondering if humans evolved from fish or a monkey like species. His conclusion was that it couldn't be from monkeys since there aren't blonde monkeys. 

  • My last class had an older Greek man named Miltiades, who was a riot. He'd lived in Germany for close to 20 years!! and he was just getting around to fine tuning his grammar. I always had stories for Stefan about old Milti and he grew to love the name. Sadly, we still talk about Miltiades. 
  • This course had a new younger character - Laercio, from Brazil. Laercio came for one month to take German and to travel, which doesn't sound like much of a vacation to me, but I was sure glad to have him sitting next to me every day. It took me a couple weeks to pronounce his name correctly, but after he wrote it out phonetically for me I finally got it. Stefan now talks about Laercio simply because he loves saying the name. 
  • For one of our assignments we had to translate recipes into German, and my Thai classmate, Gigi, wrote the recipe for her Green Thai curry, which I've made and it is super delicious. So good in fact that we've made it the past two weekends! I added some butternut squash to mine to feel healthier, but it's a great winter dish. Today after class she said that we should cook together, which sounds like a lot of fun. She's also invited us to her husband's international get together with his company, which is really thoughtful. 
  • Classmates discussing various issues from being on welfare in Germany, to coming to marry and deciding not to marry for anything other than love, to marrying cousins. As I said before, it was eye opening, but not only from the aspect of learning the language. 

  • On the occasional evening when I didn't feel completely burned out from studying German or social issues, I would come home and talk to Stefan about it. I really feel for the single mothers, but sometimes I wonder if people have children or use them as a means to stay in the country, which isn't fair to the children. I can't imagine being a single mother in a different country without family, ties, or speaking the language. I don't care how good the welfare system is, that sounds like a nightmare. Everyone has their own set of issues, but I hate hearing some of the single mothers bashing all men just because they didn't end up with nice guys. Even if they end up speaking perfect German, some of the lacking social skills and bad attitudes sadly won't get them anywhere. 
  • One of my very favorite errors Stefan makes from time to time, is using the German word 'bekommen' (meaning to obtain or gain something) in an English context. For example, he noticed he was getting a few gray hairs and so his response to me is, 'Emily I'm getting a Grandpa!' This provides a lot of entertainment. I hope my German errors are as comical. I really appreciate the little funny nuances. 
  • The past couple classes we spent talking about issues facing foreigners in Germany and the prejudices that we have towards Germans or in general. It was very interesting to hear the struggles and experiences of classmates. We watched a 10 minute Oscar winning movie called 'Schwarzfahrer' by Pepe Danquart and it was very interesting. 
I'm glad that most of the class will be continuing on. It's a really great group of people.

8 comments:

Aisling said...

That sounds like a very fun group of people.

Z said...

Schwarzfahrer made me laugh.
What level of German language are your courses? (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) How long did it take you to reach that level? I find German language a bit complicated ;) Ehm, more than a bit. Der die das is evil. I am afraid I'll never learn it.

Caitlin said...

I admire you for sticking to this, even when it's frustrating. It sounds like you at least got to meet some people who made the classes a little more enjoyable. I love all the stories of their backgrounds - how interesting!

Bluefish said...

Great post! I'm learning a lot about Germany from your blog. What kind of prejudices do foreigners have about Germans?

I also agree with you on single mothers issue. It is very easy trying to work and raise kids all on your own.

Emily said...

Aisling...
I think I'm going to miss the randomness of it all once it's over!

Z...
I'm only in B1 and it does feel like it's taken me ages. I was initially at a school that I really didn't like and so I stopped going and started working. Now that I've found a better mix of people and a more academic setting I enjoy it much more.

I think it's natural to have moments of intimidation and I know the more I learn the less I feel like I really know, but slowly I'm getting there.

Caitlin...
I think frustration and the German language go hand in hand, but I'm doing what I can... the other people make it worth going as well. I love learning about their cultures and reactions to this one. It's really fascinating.

Bluefish...
I think a lot of foreigners think of Germany and instantly think lederhosen, beer, pretzels, and nature, but those are Bavarian traits rather than all of Germany.

Each classmate felt different things - some thought the older women weren't kind, while others felt they were the kindest Germans they've encountered. It's so interesting how personal experiences influence people's views.

Emily said...

Z...
One more thing - as difficult as it can be try not to let everyone else influence you. This has been one of my biggest struggles.

Here everyone thinks they have the right to tell you how they think you should be doing things, even if you just met them and it's not always very encouraging. Most of them have never, and would never, even consider putting themselves in your position or living in another country where they didn't speak the language.

I'm sure you're hard enough on yourself about it or find yourself biting your tongue and being polite, when it seems no one else is.

Do things at your own pace so you're not getting burned out or resentful. You'll get there, but it takes time, it is complex, and remember many Germans have taken English in school since they were children.

Z said...

B1, wow, that isn't bad at all. I guess you'll be C2 soon ;)
It is always hard in the beginning. Tons of new vocabulary which are forgotten right at the moment when one closes the textbook. English was similar. I remember how happy I was when I finished my 1st english book. It was about a dog who became the president of USA, hehe.
Do you read books in German?

Emily said...

Z...
I've been trying to read more in German, but like you said, the content isn't as exciting. My latest is a children's book about dogs on an island. How funny - they must like to incorporate dogs in easy reading.